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Gabbatha

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(Γαββαθᾶ, in some MSS. Γαβαθᾶ ) occurs John 19:13, where the evangelist states that Pontius Pilate, alarmed at last in his attempts to save Jesus by the artful insinuation of the Jews, "If thou let this man go thou art not Caesar's friend," went into the praetorium again, and brought Jesus cut to them, and sat down once more upon the βῆμα or tribunal, in a place called Λιθόστρωτον , but in the Heb. Gabbatha. The Greek word, signifying literally stone-paved, is an adjective, and is generally used as such by the Greek writers; but they also sometimes use it substantively for a stone pavement, when ἔδαφος may be understood. In the Sept. it answers to רַצְפָּה (2 Chronicles 7:3; Esther 1:6).

Jerome reads, "Sedit pro tribunali in loco qui dicitur Lithostrotos." The Greek word, as well as the Latin, is frequently used to denote a pavement formed of ornamental stones of various colors, commonly called a tesselated or mosaic pavement. The partiality of the Romans for this kind of pavement is well known. It is stated by Pliny (Hist. Nat. 36:64) that, after the time of Sylla, the Romans decorated their houses with such pavements. They also introduced them into the provinces. Suetonius relates (Caesar, 46) that Julius Caesar, in his military expeditions, took with him the materials of tesselated pavements, ready prepared, that wherever he encamped they might be laid down in the praetorium (Casaubon, ad Sueton. page 38, etc., edition 1605). From these facts it has been inferred by many eminent writers that the τὸπος λιθόστρωτος, or place where Pilate's tribunal was set on this occasion, was covered by a tesselated pavement, which, as a piece of Roman magnificence, was appended to the praetorium at Jerusalem. The emphatic manner in which John speaks of it agrees with this conjecture. It further appears from his narrative that it was outside the praetorium; for Pilate is said to have "come out" to the Jews, who, for ceremonial reasons, did not go into it, on this as well as on other occasions (John 18:28-29; John 18:38; John 19:4; John 19:13). Besides, the Roman governors, although they tried causes, and conferred with their council (Acts 25:12) within the praetorium, always pronounced sentence in the open air. May not, then, this tesselated pavement, on which the tribunal was now placed, have been inlaid on some part of the terrace,etc., running along one side of the praetorium, and overlooking the area where the Jews were assembled, or upon a landing-place of the stairs, immediately before the grand entrance? It has been conjectured that the pavement in question was no other than the one referred to in 2 Chronicles 7:3, and by Josephus (War, 6:1, 8), as in the outer court of the Temple; but though it appears that Pilate sometimes sat upon his tribunal in different places, as, for instance, in the open market-place (War, 2:9, 3), yet the supposition that he would on this occasion, when the Jews were pressing for a speedy judgment, and when he was overcome with alarm, adjourn the whole assembly, consisting of rulers of every grade, as well as the populace, to any other place, is very unlikely; and the supposition that such place was any part of the Temple is encumbered with additional difficulties. It is suggested by Lightfoot (Exerc. on John, ad loc.) that the word is derived from גִּב, a surface, in which case Gabbatha would be a mere translation of λιθόστρωτον .

There was a room in the Temple in which the Sanhedrim sat, and which was called Gazith (גָּזִית ) because it was paved with smooth and square flags; and Lightfoot conjectures that Pilate may on this occasion have delivered his judgment in that room. But this is not consistent with the practice of John, who in other instances gives the Hebrew name as that properly belonging to the place, not as a mere translation of a Greek one (compare John 19:17). Besides, Pilate evidently spoke from the bema the regular seat of justice and this, in an important place like Jerusalnem, would be in a fixed spot. Nor in any case could the praetorium, a Roman residence with the idolatrous emblems, have been within the Temple. Yet it may be said that the names אֲבִדּוֹן and Ἀπολλύων , which John introduces in a similar way (Revelation 9:11), are synonymous; and if the word Gabbatha be derived, as is usual, from גָּבִהּ, "to be high or elevated," it may refer chiefly to the terrace, or uppermost landing of the stairs, etc., which migiht have been inlaid with a tesselated pavement. Schleusner understands an elevated mosaic paveenent, on which the βῆμα was placed, before the praetorium. The most natural inference from John's statement is that the word Gabbatha is "Hebrew;" but it has been contended that the writers of the New Testament used this word by way of atcommnodation to denote the language (Syriac, or Syro-Chaldee, it is said) which was commonly spoken in Judna in their time, and that when John says Ε᾿βραστί, he means in the SyroChaldaic; but into the extensive controversy respecting the vernacular language of the Jews at Jerusalem in the time of our Savior, this is not the place to enter. It may suffice for the present purpose to remark that the ancient Syriac version, instead of Gabbatha, reads Gepiptha. See Iken, De Λιθοστρώτῳ (Bremme, 1725); Lightfoot's Works. 2:614, 615 (London, 1684); Hamesveld, Bibl. Geogr. 2:129; Seelen, Medit. Exeg. 1:643. (See PAVEMENT).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Gabbatha'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/g/gabbatha.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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